New Years is the most widely celebrated holiday in Russia. Preparations begin early in December. Cities and towns glow with New Year trees and street illuminations. Romantic festive markets attract fans of local souvenirs, hot tea with bagels and unique handmade stuff. Theaters invite adults and kids to fairy tale plays and ballets. Shops persistently remind that we can never buy too many gifts! Here is a guide to New Years in Saint Petersburg:
Just to make it clear: New Year ‘s Eve is literally a night between the 31 of December and the 1st of January. Catholic Christmas on the 25th of December is not widely (read: almost not at all) celebrated in Russia. And orthodox Christmas is on the 7th of January — but it’s a quiet family holiday with no big parties.
Visit The Palace Square
Though the Palace Square is rather crowded on the New Years night, you can still move freely (it’s not at all like standing in the crowd in a rock-star gig).
- You CAN NOT bring alcohol with you. Drinking alcohol in public spaces (on the streets, in parks) is prohibited in Russia.
- On the entry to the square visitors are obliged to pass through metal detector and security check.
- Don’t be afraid of popular merrymaking. Just take your usual precautions and you’ll be fine.
The main New Year tree is set up on the Palace Square. Its lavish decoration and illumination, as well as glowing in the dark Winter Palace, make a perfect background for festive pictures. There also will be a scene for holiday concert which begins at 11 p.m. It’s a kind of appetizer before the real fun begins. Don’t be shy and dance — moving will warm you up!
At midnight the Kremlin Clock chimes announce that 2019 is already here. Probably, this is the most silent moment of the year because everyone counts the 12 strokes and makes wishes… Time to cry out loud : “S Novym godom! S novym schastiem!” and to give hugs to everyone who you think deserve a hug 🙂
Then you can either stay on the Palace Square, or stroll down Nevsky Prospect and visit the Sennaya Square where guests are welcomed to taste pirozhki, pancakes, bagels and hot tea.
By 3 a.m. come back to the Palace Embankment to watch the magnificent fireworks.
Public transport will be functioning the whole night long, but don’t rely on it too much. Maybe only on metro…
Book A Restaurant
Every restaurant, hotel or bar proposes a New Year festive program. Usually it includes meals and a show (even gifts).
It’s up to you what to choose: something more cozy and relaxing or crazy dancing with Snegurochka and flowing champagne. Prices differ very much — depending on the location, cuisine and festive program. Expect at least 150 USD per adult person.
Very important: book in advance! Chances to find a place during the New Year Eve are extremely low.
Myth about celebrating New Years in a Russian way
Russia lays in many time zones, thus New Year comes 8 hours earlier in Vladivostok than in Kaliningrad. I’ve heard that some hotels propose to drink a shot every time it’s midnight in some of Russian regions. In fact, we don’t do that.
Just to give an idea, here are some nice places:
“The Phantom of the Opera” show at the Konstantinovsky Palace
This Palace is considered to be one of the most prestigious places for events of any level. Russian President Vladimir Putin often holds official meetings there.
Admission ticket: 400+ USD
Moulin Rouge style party at La Vue Restaurant
Beautiful dancers, plumages, rhinestones, sequins, flashy decor and immortal symbol of any cabaret — can-can.
Admission ticket: 400+ USD
Travel through time at the Tzar Restaurant
Welcome to the times of Peter the Great, the founder of Saint Petersburg: classic ballroom dances, Russian romances and arias, gorgeous New Year Tree and gifts.
Admission ticket: 400+ USD
Carnival night at the Plyushkin restaurant
Live music, show-ballet, candy bar for kids, champagne bar for adults.
Admission ticket: 100+ USD
Visit A Theatre
Spend the New Year’s Eve with famous clown show of the Litsedei Theatre. The theatre itself turns into a cabaret-hall. The actors perform a unique show full of pantomimes, clowning, bandstand and jokes. Guests can also participate in funny contests, go to karaoke, dance with clowns and laugh as much as they can!
Admission ticket: 200+ USD
Go On A Cruise Tour
Cruise companies also have special New Year’s offers, like a 5-days round trips from Saint Petersburg on Princess Anastasia cruise liner. You’ll visit other wonderful European cities such as Riga, Tallinn, Stockholm, Helsinki and, of course, have festive treats and show during New Year’s Eve.
Admission ticket: 600+ USD (per cruise)
If you have Russian friends, ask them to invite you (at least once in a lifetime) to spend NY Eve with a Russian family. This is the best way not only to get acquainted with local traditions, but also taste 100% authentic local dishes (many of them are “special” New Year dishes).
I hope this guide to a Saint Petersburg New Year will help you to decide what to do this year (or maybe decide to visit Russia in 2019). Whatever you choose, be sure to have fun, lots of champagne and gifts! If you come to Saint Petersburg in December and desire to feel festive vibes, check the post What To Do In St. Petersburg: December 2018 for best ideas.